Adel Daoud | U.S. Marshal’s office photo via AP

U.S. Marshal’s office

Plea in 2012 bomb plot sets stage for a contentious, lengthy sentencing

SHARE Plea in 2012 bomb plot sets stage for a contentious, lengthy sentencing
SHARE Plea in 2012 bomb plot sets stage for a contentious, lengthy sentencing

There will be no trial for the Hillside man who has sat in jail for six years after the feds say he tried to set off a 1,000-pound bomb outside a downtown bar in 2012.

But come spring, the sentencing of 25-year-old terrorism suspect Adel Daoud promises to be just as contentious — and nearly as lengthy.

That development arose after U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman accepted a specialized guilty plea Monday from Daoud, in which he admitted the facts revolving around his arrest but still denied culpability. It’s known as an Alford plea.

The judge accepted that plea over objections from federal prosecutors, who then promised to spend days calling witnesses during Daoud’s sentencing hearing. They even broached the idea of calling an undercover FBI agent –– using special security measures –– who had been expected to testify at the trial.

“They don’t know when to quit when they’re ahead,” Daoud’s lawyer, Thomas Anthony Durkin, retorted.

Still, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas said Monday that “the public has a right to know” the evidence against Daoud. He also told the judge, “I consider this an FBI success story.”

The judge said she would set aside a week for Daoud’s sentencing, beginning April 29.

For years, Durkin has described Daoud as an impressionable teenager who became the victim of an overzealous FBI sting. Daoud was 18 when he was arrested, and he has spent roughly a quarter of his life in jail awaiting trial.

But that trial was delayed repeatedly over national security secrets and questions about his mental competency. In the past, he has rambled about the Illuminati and reptilian overlords. On Monday, though, he calmly answered Coleman’s questions as she prepared to take his plea.

With help from his lawyers, Daoud also carefully threaded the needle required by the Alford plea, conceding that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict him, but that he would “deny culpability and persist in my innocence.”

Coleman questioned him carefully about his intentions — and even let him take a break to speak to his lawyers. When that break ended, Daoud still denied that a lengthy recitation of the evidence by Jonas showed his guilt.

Regardless, the unusual hearing ended with Daoud entering a guilty plea to 10 criminal counts that could put him away for the rest of his life. They revolved not only around the attempted bombing, but a plot to kill an FBI agent and an attack on a fellow inmate. The feds laid out new details about all three incidents last week.

The feds say Daoud wrote, months before undercover agents intervened, about his wish to become a martyr and his anger with the U.S. government. They also say he asked if he could “press the button” on the car bomb given to him by an undercover FBI agent that turned out to be inert.

When he and the undercover agent made their way downtown to carry out the planned attack, Daoud allegedly prayed for success. Jonas said he planned to play video of that moment during Daoud’s sentencing hearing.

The feds arrested Daoud after he allegedly tried twice to push the button on the detonator Sept. 14, 2012.

Later, in jail, Daoud allegedly asked a fellow inmate to help him have the undercover agent killed, calling him “a hypocrite and a spy.”

“Get rid of him,” Daoud allegedly said. “You know what I mean, throw out the trash.”

Finally, in May 2015, prosecutors said Daoud tried to kill another fellow inmate at the Metropolitan Correctional Center over a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad. Daoud had allegedly attacked the inmate once before, returning in May 2015 when he knew the inmate would be sleeping with headphones and an eye covering.

Another inmate said Daoud had a weapon in his hand, which he described as a toothbrush wrapped with a white cloth with what appeared to be a razor blade attached. Daoud allegedly called it a “jailhouse shank,” and the feds said he flushed it and a second toothbrush hidden under his shirt down the toilet.

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